Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Films of Martin Scorsese: An Introduction

I was going to write a new piece for my God and the Cinema series on the films of Martin Scorsese, but realized that it was too big a topic for one post. Scorsese’s films have always been obsessed with spirituality and religion – particularly, but not exclusively Catholicism – and looking over what I wanted to write, I realized that it would have to be a multiple posting and I didn’t really want to do that. There are so many films and filmmakers that can go into that series that I didn’t want to put them all on hold for weeks, if not months, as I made my way through Scorsese. So, I decided to create a new series about the films of Martin Scorsese. This may mean that my God and Cinema series may not be able to be a weekly one, but I hope that at least it can be bi-weekly.

My reasoning for starting The Films of Martin Scorsese series has another reason. Scorsese is far and away my favorite filmmaker. Throughout his long career, he has never made a bad film. True, some are better than others, and some are merely average, but there has not been one that I would describe as bad.

I have watched many of his films so many times, I practically have them memorized, but I realized that it has been years since I sat down and watch some of his films – sometimes even films that are among his best. After reading Roger Ebert’s book on Scorsese, I hungered to go back and watch them all over again. So that’s what I am going to do.

According the IMDB, Scorsese has 41 directing credits. I have tracked down nearly all of the films listed there – with the following exceptions - Vesuvius VI (1959), Scorsese’s first short, which I’m not sure exists anymore as most sites don’t even include it, Streets Scenes (1970) a documentary about the Vietnam War protests, Made in Milan (1990) a short documentary about Armani and Lady by the Sea: The Statute of Liberty (2004), none of which I can find in any form. If by some miracle I do find these films, I will do posts on them as well.

The other 37 credits, as well as two American Express commercials he directed which were not listed, I have found. The plan is to go through each film, starting at the beginning, and giving a post about each one. The first part which actually go into Scorsese’s first three short films – What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?, It’s Not Just You Murray! and The Big Shave. Apart from that, and the two American Express commercials, each film, even if it’s a short, will get its own post. So that means even lesser known documentaries, Italiamerican and American Boy, his music video for Michael Jackson’s Bad, his episode of Amazing Stories, Mirror Mirror, his segment for The Concert of America, The Neighborhood, and his Hitchcock homage The Key to Reserva even his production footage from The Last Temptation of Christ, will each get their own posting. They may not be as long or as in depth, but I didn’t really see a more logical way to group his other shorts. It will be a 36 part series with (hopefully) two colums per week, depending on how much time I have to watch the films themselves that I hope to wrap up by October 2, which is when Scorsese’s new film, Shutter Island, opens.

I am looking forward to this series. Not only does it give me an excuse to go back and watch some of my very favorite films of all time, but it also may allow me to see all of his films in a new light. I remember being disappointed in films like Boxcar Bertha, New York New York, The Color of Money, Cape Fear and Kundun – not because they were not good, but because they were not great, but perhaps freed from those expectations, I can watch these films, which I have never seen more than once, and see them for what they are, not what I wanted them to be. My memory on other films – Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Age of Innocence and Bringing Out the Dead for example, has grown hazy in the years since I watched them, so this will be a good refresher. It also gave me an excuse to track down some of his lesser known videos, shorts, documentaries, TV episodes, many of which I have never seen at all before. I hope some of you enjoy the new series. I know I will.

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